Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
The start of another year and once again Dubrovnik is the centre of the international media. The latest report on Dubrovnik has appeared in the popular Condé Nast Travel website in a list of the 50 most beautiful cities in the world.
“There are few places that better capture the grand soul of maritime Old Europe,” comments Condé Nast Travel on Dubrovnik. And goes on the mention that the city features in the HBO serial Game of Thrones as King’s Landing. “The city currently plays King's Landing in Game of Thrones, and was formerly the capital of the Maritime Republic of Ragusa, rival to Italy's Venice and Amalfi.”
Other cities on the Condé Nast Travel list are Jerusalem, Edinburgh, Rome, Lisbon and Cape Town. In the number one position of the list is Venice.
Over the years Dubrovnik has inspired many a painter to create stunning scenes, an author to write the perfect poem and a sculpturer to bring life to stone. The historic architecture inside the ancient city walls have also enthused Renata Debeljak to design beautiful and stylish bags. The Dubrovnik Times caught up with this up-and-coming Dubrovnik based designer to learn why her brand RDCode is causing so many ripples in the design world. Through her work as a journalist she came in contact with world famous artists, their magic rubbed off, and now her unique bags are extremely sought after. “I believe that bags are much more than a fashion detail; they have a much more complex story,” commented Debeljak.
Where do you get the inspiration for the designs of your bags? Is it true that every bag is unique in design?
RDcode bags are my creative way to tell some of my stories, what I am currently experiencing, to “write” through them about my travels and the cities that have impressed me and left their mark on my soul. My inspirations are inexhaustible. Sometimes it is the windmills of Holland and Germany, sometimes the seashore, for some bags the German island of Sylt, and for some the old doors of Dubrovnik. Quite often my hometown of Bremen in northern Germany is a big influx. In modern and especially historical architecture I find inspiration for my bags. I don’t want to put bags in the context of the seasons or of current trends, or even to create some kind of collection, because each one has a separate story and I want them to be unique and timeless. It is true that all of my bags are unique, no two are identical.
What gave you the motivation to start your own company? Is this a hobby and a passion that has transformed into a business?
As a journalist, I most frequently write about topics of culture and lifestyle. Through this journalistic work, I have been able to meet many interesting artists and creative people from all over the world who came to Dubrovnik and whose work I admired. Their ability and talent fascinated me. They created amazing works, from sculpture, to glass reliefs, and jewellery made of unusual materials as well as bags that were real works of art. I am convinced that all those talents with which we are born will sooner or later come to the fore. I have always loved and had unusual handbags. It is important that the bag I carry reveals a story of my personality and not that it is part of the serial production. It's been hard, therefore, to find exactly the kind of bag that would suit me. I believe that bags are much more than a fashion detail; they have a much more complex story. So I got the idea to start designing them myself. I taught myself, with the help of foreign internet sites, how to go about creating a bag, putting it together. Before I decided to make my first bag back in 2006, I knew absolutely nothing about cutting out and sewing; I only had ideas in my head that were waiting to be brought to life. I tried to explain to others my ideas, but it would ultimately always turn out differently than I imagined. So with a great deal of hard work and determination I taught myself the techniques required to create a bag from scratch. I make all of my bags myself. Handbags have always been a hobby of mine, but two years ago I transformed this into a business and launched the fashion brand RDCode, however I still have my “day job” as a journalist.
Are handbags an extension of your personality? Do you find yourself "handbag watching" as you travel or during your time in Dubrovnik?
Yes, my bags are really copies of my personality. I started to design them primarily for my own personal style, which is along the lines of casual chic, not really connected to any fashion trends. I love to wear bags that last longer than a season, but also big, oversized bags, with which I can travel. Trips inspire me as well as the timeless beauty of my Dubrovnik.
What is the most important possession in your handbag? Do you have a favourite handbag or do you change them daily?
Depending on my day and my obligations in that day, but I like to say that my bags are along the line of that old Roman saying “bring all of your things with you.” Even though I design my bags I don’t change them every day. Sometimes I carry my same favourite bag in the summer and in the winter, and they are never big enough to carry all of the things I need. Most often I have a grey or some earthy coloured bag. I love simple designs without unnecessary details. Therefore the details of my bags are commonly found in the shape of a windmill and bags are generally made of different varieties of organic skins.
What are the plans for the future?
I have a lot of plans; one of them is to offer my designs onto foreign markets.
In the 17th century, Croatian soldiers used to wear a little piece of cloth around their neck; this was the birth of the Cravat or necktie.
Among the 47 European countries Croatia is the 26th with respect to its population.
Croatia is slightly smaller than West Virginia.
The book 101 Dalmatians was written by British author Dodie Smith and published in 1956.
William Shakespeare set his comedy Twelfth Night in Illyria, by which he probably meant Croatia.
Croatia is bigger than Belgium, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland.
Croatia has borders with six countries, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro.
1936 is considered as the date of the official start of nudism on the island of Rab when English king Edward VIII visited the island and received the permission of the Rab authorities to bathe naked with his wife in Kandarola Bay.
At depths over 30 m the temperature of the Adriatic is mostly constant throughout the entire year.
Hum in Istria with a varying population of 17 to 23 people holds the Guinness World Record for being the smallest town in the world.
The White House was built using stones from the island of Brač near Split.
Croats had their own alphabet until the 18th century which was called “glagoljica” or Glagolitic.
The Amphitheatre in Pula is one of only 3 preserved in the world, which was once the site of gladiator fights. Built in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, it is the 6th largest amphitheatre in existence.
The first torpedo was constructed by Ivan Lupis Vukic in the 19th century in the city of Rijeka.
With 13 entries on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Croatia is, with Spain, the European country with the highest number of entries.
Croatia was for the first time acknowledged in history on 7 June 879, when Pope John VIII granted Duke Branimir the title dux Croatorum.
The leading shares on the Croatian stock exchange for 2015 were the chocolate producers “Kras.” Throughout last year the shares in the chocolate giant Kras rose by an incredible 35 percent! Possibly fuelled by the launch of many new products as well as the break-through into other foreign markets Kras was by far and away the most successful company on the stock exchange.
The second most profitable stocks was the hotel and tourism chain “Valamar Riviera” whose share value rose by a healthy 21 percent in 2015. Valamar Riviera owns and operates hotels all along the Croatian Adriatic coastline including five hotels in Dubrovnik.
In third place on the rich list was another food producer “Podravka” whose stock price rose by 13.8 percent last year. Podravka produces the most popular Croatian food seasoning “Vegeta” and sells its products into forty countries worldwide. In the first nine months of 2015 Podravka saw profits rise by 60 percent and recorded a net profit of 131 million Kuna over that period.
After the completion of this year's tourism fair the New York Times Travel Show, which lasted from the 8th to the 10th of January the Dubrovnik Tourist Board pointed out that “we can optimistically expect a great tourism year with plenty of tourists with this enormous market.”
Last year was an amazing year for Dubrovnik in terms of guests from the US. Even without any direct flights from the US to Croatia the number of American tourists who visited the city was significant. In fact, in terms of nationality, American tourists were the second most numerous in Dubrovnik in 2015. This year's New York Times Travel Show attracted over 500 exhibitors from 150 countries. The Croatian exhibition was organized by the Croatian National Tourist Board and presented a large stand which included the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the Dubrovnik - Neretva County Tourist Board.
According to the Dubrovnik Tourist Board the interest in the city as a potential tourist destination was extremely high. Last year 76,913 Americans visited Dubrovnik; a huge increase of 23 percent compared with 2014, and achieved 238,226 overnight stays. The added value of the popular HBO serial Game of Thrones cannot be overlooked. Dubrovnik acts as King’s Landing in the serial and several locations around the region have certainly raised publicity in the USA.
The first day of the travel fair was reserved for business visits, while on Saturday and Sunday potential tourists were in attendance. The Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the Zagreb Tourist Board staged three special presentations which included special prizes of four-night stays in both cities.
Works have begun on the first phase of the reconstruction and restoration of the Rector's Palace. The restoration of the stone pillars and arches in the atrium is the first phase and the investment is worth around 11 million Kuna.
The Dubrovnik Times has learned that the completion date for the construction works will be 24 months. However the works will be put on hold through the main summer tourist season so that visitors can enjoy one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The second phase will begin later this year and will invlove solving the former prision inside the palace. All of the works will, of course, be carried out in accordance with the guidelines of conservationists.
The Rector's Palace has repeatedly been subjected to reconstruction, the first time it was due to a gunpowder explosion in 1435.
Popular British singer-songwriter Polly Jean Harvey, better known as PJ Harvey, is the latest act confirmed for this summer’s INmusic festival, schduled to be held at Zagreb's Jarun Lake on June 20-22, festival organisers announced earlier this week.
The famous vocalist and guitarist began her career in 1988 when she joined local band Automatic Dlamini. In 1991, she formed an eponymous trio and subsequently began her professional career. Since then she has released a number of studio albums and won a number of awards, including the 2001 and 2011 Mercury Prize for Stories from the City. She is the only artist to have been awarded the prize twice.
She has has 8 Brit Award nominations, 6 Grammy Award nominations and two further Mercury Prize nominations. Rolling Stone awarded her 1992’s Best New Artist and Best Singer Songwriter and 1995’s Artist of the Year.
In 2011, she was awarded for Outstanding Contribution To Music at the NME Awards. In 2013 she was awarded an MBE for services to music.
PJ Harvey joins Yeasayer, Florence + The Machine and Motorhead as confirmed acts at the 11th INmusic festival.
The price of the three-day festival ticket is EUR 40 (plus transaction fees).
Tickets are available here.
Today is the final day that the festive Christmas stands will adorn the main street in the Old City of Dubrovnik; it’s the end of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival, at least for this season. In spite of the recent bad weather the stands were well attended and many people tasted the mulled wine and sausages for the final time last night.
The Deputy Mayor of Dubrovnik, Zeljko Raguz, confirmed to us that all of the companies that rented the stands for the duration of this year’s Dubrovnik Winter Festival were very satisfied with the results. In total eighteen stands were placed along the Stradun and this was the first time in history that such festive stands had been placed on the main street.
The initial reactions were mixed as some people thought that placing a Christmas market on the Stradun was in bad taste. “The negative comments were only at the beginning of the festival,” commented Raguz. Adding that many of the people who complained were later seen enjoying a festive treat at one of the wooden houses. The lease of the stands, from the 16th of November until the 10th of January, was set at a symbolic price of 5,000 Kunas. However this price could rise next year as the interest in renting a stand has grown considerably.